The House on Paradise Street - Sofka Zinovieff I recommend this book to those of you are interested in understanding the problems of modern day Greece, its current economic crisis and the violence of street protests. I may surprise many. ”My gosh! This is a book of fiction,” you will exclaim. To understand today’s current problems it is always best to look at the past. Greece’s recent past is one of oppressive regimes. That is only my opinion, of course. This book follows a family during the German occupation of Greece during WW2, the growth of Communism, the Civil War that followed, English and American manipulation of Greek affairs, the Colonel’s Junta 1967-1974 and all the way up to the present. The last chapter takes place in 2010. Although this is fiction, it is based on real life experiences, experiences of members of the author’s family and of other close acquaintances. I found the book fascinating and gripping. Really, what is told is not fiction at all!

In a nutshell this book tells the story of an English woman who marries a Greek. He is 20 years her senior, has had two wives before her, and has had a difficult childhood. He has grown up with his aunt, his mother having fled to Russia after the Greek Civil War. When the book opens he has died in a car accident. The book is concerned with the English woman’s discovery of whom exactly her husband was and how Greek history has shaped the lives of this family, going back to the catastrophic Fire of Smyrna in 1922.

I enjoyed learning what it is to be Greek, today. Their food, their customs, why they all honk at crowded intersections, why politics is what is discussed around the dinner table, how villagers live life differently from Athenians. This is a book that shows how history shapes who we are. It demonstrates that civil war can cut right down through the center a family. I live in Europe. I find it completely fascinating to see how history shapes the people of each country and makes them unique.

I immigrated to Sweden when I was young. In this novel the young English woman marries a Greek and soon has a child. Her experiences as a foreigner in a new land reflect many of my own experiences. What was it like to be newlywed and have a child in a new country? What is it like to celebrate different holidays, to enjoy these new celebrations but to not really feel at home in them? What is it like to have a new language and not really understand all the jokes? How does one make one’s own family traditions? Being in a new country is very exciting, but also sometimes a bit of a challenge, to say the least! Although the new is exciting and fun, sometimes one aches for the old and familiar ant that which is understood. So of course this book spoke to me! It didn’t matter that Greeks and Swedes are so very different. It was the excitement of the new and the realization that one is different that was similar.

And a grandmother not living with her grandchildren but getting to know them when they are older, that speaks to me too. Not all families grow up together. Many are split. What are the consequences?

This book spoke to me of experiences I have lived, taught me about Greece and what it is to be Greek. I enjoy learning about different European cultures. We all rub shoulders here in Europe. It is important to understand each other. History is the key.

Another extremely moving and informative book about the Greek Civil War, which I highly recommend, is Eleni.



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BEFORE READING:
I know I am terribly weak when it comes to books. I stopped listening at BBC and bought the paper book! I am reading it now.

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This looks good! An epic novel about a Greek family during the second world war and the civil war. I will check it out at BBC at this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/search/?q=The%20House%20on%20Paradise%20street%20Episode%201
(no longer valid perhaps!)

Here is the book info I find at BBC:
Sofka Zinovieff's novel about an Englishwoman's quest to find out the origins of the bitter feud that has split her dead husband's family is set in contemporary Athens, but takes us back to the tragic events of the Greek Civil War in the 1940s. When Maud's husband Nikitas is killed in a mysterious car crash, his aunt Alexandra tells Maud she should contact his mother Antigone in Moscow. Antigone left Greece nearly sixty years ago, leaving Nikitas behind, and has never returned. Now she makes a momentous decision: she will go back for her son's funeral. Abridged by Sarah LeFanu

Read by Ann Beach and Lucy Briers Producer: Sara Davies.


This starts wonderfully - so good, that maybe I will stop and buy the book instead! I really disapprove of abridged books......